This story has been revised with updated GT production information, Ford confirming it will build just 250 of the new GT ultracars annually for a limited run.
Ford intends to take on some of the toughest competitors in the hot-hatch market when it launches an all-new version of the Focus RS for 2016. And after giving a select group of media a preview last month, the Detroit maker will be rolling out the five-door pocket rocket for public viewing this week at the Geneva Motor Show.
In a limited-access background session, senior members of the Ford performance and product development team offered some more background on the Focus RS – as well as the upcoming Ford ultracar, the reborn GT. But they continued to hold back some key details, apparently not wanting to give key competitors like Volkswagen, Honda and Subaru, a chance to prepare for what’s coming.
“There’s quite a bit of fine-tuning that goes in right until the final hour,” stressed Jamal Hameedi, the chief engineer for Ford’s new Global Performance Vehicle unit.
Whatever the reason, the maker will only say, for now, that the 2.3-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost engine in the 2016 Focus RS will make “320-plus” horsepower when it begins to roll out of its Saar-Louis assembly plant later this year. That French factory will supply all global markets including, for the first time, the United States.
That’s actually less power than the previous generation RS. But don’t think new car will be slower. Not a chance. First, expect the figure to rise beyond 320, and you can also expect that the new hot hatch will be significantly lighter than before, translating into a significantly better power-to-weight ratio.
“All key components were designed to keep down the weight,” said Juergen Gagstatter, chief program engineer.
Meanwhile, all that power will be put to the pavement through a newly designed all-wheel-drive system. Technically, the new RS is still a front-driver by design, but the new AWD system will put as much as 70% of torque to the back wheels when needed. Meanwhile, its limited-slip system will be able to direct as much as 100% of the torque that goes to the back axle to one wheel or another. A brake intervention system will do much the same up front.
This torque vectoring system will more than overcome the traditional drawback of all-wheel-drive, which is to understeer in corners, stressed Ford’s global product development chief Raj Nair.
The new Focus RS gets a number of exterior tweaks, including both a functional rear diffuser and spoiler, both designed to enhance downforce, said chief designer Joel Piaskowski. The final result is a vehicle with absolutely no high-speed lift.
Inside, the RS features the requisite visual enhancements, including “Alcantara-like” materials to reduce slip on both the driver’s seat and steering wheel. There will be a base sport seat and an optional version, both supplied by Recaro, the designer noted.
Ford studied nearly a dozen global entries in the hot hatch segment, including affordable models like the Subaru WRX STi and the Mitsubishi Evo, as well as the mid-range Golf R and the nearly $70,000 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG. Ford officials wouldn’t say whether they plan to be the fastest or the most nimble on the market, but suggested the new Focus RS will be seen as a benchmark entry.
(Ford bringing new Focus RS to U.S. for the first time. For more, Click Here.)
That’s the same goal for the new Ford GT which was the unexpected hit of the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. The Ford performance team couldn’t help but boast about the way they kept word of the new ultracar secret until its debut at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.
“Suppliers were sworn to secrecy, some didn’t know what they were working on, and some didn’t even know they were working for Ford,” laughed product chief Nair.
Asked who he expects to target with the new GT, Ford Performance Vehicles chief Dave Pericak suggested the Lamborghini Aventador would be a good place to start.
(Lamborghini brings new Aventador Superveloce to Geneva. Click Here for a first look.)
The new model will hit the road in 2016, just in time to mark the original Ford GT40 race car’s big victory at Le Mans a half century earlier.
There have been ongoing rumors and reports suggesting Ford will have a track version of the GT ready to take back to Le Mans, something the maker has denied. Not that it is ruling out the possibility. Officials just insist they have not yet made the business case for that costly project.
(Click Here for details about the Ford GT being built in Canada.)
For now, they contend, they will focus on the street model, which should also be priced in Aventador territory. And volumes won’t be any bigger.
“It’s safe to say it will be in the hundreds,” said Pericak during a briefing prior to the opening Geneva press day, “not the thousands, which means it will be even more exclusive” than the GT model brought out in 2003 to celebrate the Ford Motor Co. centennial.
In fact, TheDetroitBureau.com has just been advised by Ford’s Hameedi that just 250 GTs will be built annually for “several years” before production is halted.